June 15, 2018
Weekly Report Card: Regionals Week 3
By Tommy Marquez
Top marks for those who made history.
Top marks for those who made history.

The 2018 Regionals season is signed, sealed and delivered.

Week 2 provided historic achievements and comebacks, but Week 3 clapped back with a bevy of astonishing performances of its own.

We saw the two fittest women on Earth compete side by side for the first time since last year’s most insane finish ever at the CrossFit Games.

Another athlete entered the decade club for Games qualification and the biggest Day 3 comeback record was matched a mere week after it had been broken.

It was a fantastic way to close out another year of Regionals. Below are my top grades for the week.

Grade: A+

Ben Smith

There are now two athletes who have qualified for their 10th CrossFit Games, but only one managed to do so consecutively: Ben Smith.

Out in the Atlantic, Smith put the finishing touches on earning himself a decade’s worth of Games appearances, with a pair of second-place finishes in the final two events.

The significance of this feat cannot be overstated. Think about it. How many singular endeavors in life can you honestly say you’ve pursued for 10 years straight?

My guess is that many of us won’t have any, and most will have fewer than a couple. A decade spent relentlessly pursuing something, aside from school—where, even then, people frequently change their major or focus—is exceedingly rare. To do so successfully at the level Smith has is unheard of.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average worker stays at a job 4.4 years before switching, and that number is shrinking.

Most people will have changed jobs two to three times since Ben started competing.

From the time he showed up at the CrossFit Games in Aromas back in 2009 as an unknown 19-year-old who trained in front of his parent’s fridge to the moment he crossed the finish line Sunday, Ben Smith has been a CrossFit Games athlete.

In that time he’s seen the Games move locations twice, finished inside the top-10 a record seven times, landed on the podium and reached the pinnacle of our sport, becoming the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games champion.

Most importantly, he’s done all this with the utmost integrity and humility.

I’ll never forget when I was conducting my first set of interviews for the CrossFit media team in 2012. Ben, having just demolished the Mid Atlantic Regional, graciously stuck around so I could get an interview, which put him at risk of missing the start of the newly released Avengers movie he was on his way to see.

As a fellow comic-book nerd, I couldn’t believe it, but it’s something I’ve always been grateful for.

Congrats, Ben! I can’t think of anyone more deserving of a top grade.

Cassidy Lance-McWherter

Fun fact: Not a single woman beat Cassidy Lance-McWherter in any CrossFit competition in 2018.

After winning the Open this year, Lance-McWherter put an exclamation point on her second straight Atlantic Regional title by winning the final event in dramatic fashion, overtaking Emily Bridgers for the lead during the final set of thrusters.
 

Lance-McWherter
Lance-McWherter

It’s another huge milestone in her comeback from a missed qualification in 2016.

Since then she’s finished the worldwide Open in the top five twice (including her win this year), won the Atlantic Regional twice and finished 12th at the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games.

Her finish at the Games last year was a 14-place improvement from her last appearance at the Games in 2015.

This most recent win puts her in elite company, and all signs point toward her having her best finish yet at the CrossFit Games.

Since the Open’s inception in 2011, four women have won both the worldwide Open and their Regional in the same year: Annie Thorisdottir, Kristan Clever, Samantha Briggs and Sara Sigmundsdottir have all had the momentum of heading into the Games undefeated.

In all those instances, each woman finished her season in no worse than fourth place at the Games, with Thorisdottir and Briggs each winning the Games and sweeping their seasons entirely.

Additionally, all four of those women have made the Games podium. Three of them have won it all.

Lance-McWherter’s best finish at the Games came in 2014, when she finished in eighth overall. So, if the historical data hold true, she’s at least guaranteed to have her best finish ever—and she could be standing on the podium.

Two stages down, one to go for Lance-McWherter as she earns a top grade in Week 3.

Zeke Grove

While the majority of the CrossFit world slept, Zeke Grove made history on multiple fronts Down Under in the Pacific men’s competition.

Grove overcame a 50-point deficit on Sunday, tying Becca Voigt’s comeback record from a week earlier, to qualify for his third consecutive CrossFit Games.

Even more impressive is the fact that Grove overcame a 40-point—yes, 40-point—deficit in the final event to leapfrog himself from 11th to fifth place overall in one fell swoop.

It’s the largest single event comeback in Regionals history and would be the fourth-biggest Day 3 comeback by itself, even without the extra event prior to help make up points. He’s also the only athlete ever to qualify after not being in the final heat or top-10 prior to the finale.

Taking a wide-angle view, it’s impressive that Grove was even in the mix, let alone competing at Regionals.

Three weeks prior to the 2017 Games, Grove’s wife gave birth to their son, Zephyr, who was two months premature. With his heart and mind elsewhere, and at the insistence of his wife, Grove competed at the Games to make his family proud.

Upon returning from the Games, he had to immediately relocate his gym, CrossFIt Carv, after which he fell ill with a virus that left him in a coma for nearly a week.

Within the span of roughly six weeks, Grove became a father, competed at the Games, moved his gym and slipped into a coma. On top of that, he was forced to rest for four months to recover once he woke up from his illness.

It seems almost unbelievable that now, only six months after returning to training, Grove is headed back to the Games.

His experiences over the last year are a testament to the strength of will and resiliency of the human spirit. It was hard not to tear up watching his post-awards ceremony interview, knowing what he’s been through.

Now Grove gets to return to Madison, this time knowing there’s nothing that the competition—or life, for that matter—can throw at him that he can’t handle.
 

Grove
Grove

Emily Bridgers

Earlier this year, Emily Bridgers announced that this season, her eighth, would be her last.

Bridgers, now a five-time CrossFit Games qualifier as an individual, is another one of those athletes in our sport who truly embodies resiliency in the face of adversity on the competition floor.

In the first three years of her CrossFit career, Bridgers put forth amazing performances in the Open, finishing twice inside the top six worldwide only to come up devastatingly short at Regionals and miss qualifying for the CrossFit Games.

I was on site, covering the 2012 “Dirty South” (South East) Regional in West Palm Beach when, despite an event win to close out the competition, Bridgers missed qualification by just one place.

All that seems like a long time ago now that she’s become a perennial Games qualifier, breaking through with a sixth-place finish at the 2014 Games in Carson during her rookie year.

Perhaps it was fitting that Day 1 of her final Regional weekend started with a little speed bump: a 19th-place finish in Event 1 and an 11th-place overall standing at the close of the day.

Just like she did many years prior, Bridgers turned tribulation into triumph by having the best day of Regional competition in her career on Day 2.

She won both events on Saturday and earned both the first and second event records of her career. By day’s end, she had climbed up nine spots on the Leaderboard, moving into second place overall and strengthening her grip on a qualifying spot by opening a 68-point lead over the bubble athlete in sixth place.

Bridgers finished the weekend in second place, just two points shy of first-place finisher Cassidy Lance-McWherter, but her final Regional performance felt like an overall win in my book.

She showcased the heart and determination that have turned her from an athlete known for coming up short at Regionals into a household name in the CrossFit community for half a decade.

I’m definitely going to miss watching her compete. Luckily, there’s still one last hurrah waiting for her in Madison.

Team Soul

CrossFit Mayhem Freedom and Don’t Stop may have been the most hyped-up teams so far, but another group entered the fray as a legit contender out of the Atlantic Regional: Team Soul.

The crew from Miami, Florida, won the Atlantic Regional in convincing fashion, with three event wins—all three of which featured the Worm.

The Worm has become a staple of the Affiliate Cup and will more than likely rear its ugly head at the Games this year. All the hallmarks of a good team are on display when using the Worm efficiently: communication, timing, strategy and collective fitness.

Team Soul also has the distinction of being one of only five teams to finish both Events 2 and 5. Both events were by far the most aggressive in terms of time caps and both proved to be gatekeepers for elite teams.

CrossFit Mayhem Freedom, OC3 Black, Invictus X and Invictus Boston were able to complete both workouts as well—basically a “Who’s Who” of the Affiliate Cup. Three of the four won their Regional, and the lone runner-up, OC3 Black, finished second, just behind Mayhem Freedom.

It’s good company to keep if you’re Team Soul, especially since Soul wants to be the next team from the Atlantic to make the Games podium. In 2013, CrossFit Adrenaline from the South East finished third. And in 2016, 12 Labours Lions was the runner-up to CrossFit Mayhem.
 

Soul
Team Soul

There are a few hurdles awaiting Soul in Madison, but I think this team can do big things. It has three members returning from its 2016 team, which finished in 11th place, and it has added Julian Serna, a perennial Regional contender who finished the 2014 Open in 13th worldwide.

The energy and fire the team brought to the Atlantic Regional this year was undeniable, and I hope it carries over to the big stage in August.

Meridian Power Couples: Rasmus Andersen and Lauren Fisher, and Elliot Simmonds and Jamie Greene

Couples who train together stay together.

A study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology supports the idea that exercising as a couple can have a host of benefits for the relationship as a whole.

I don’t think qualifying for the CrossFit Games was one of them, but it certainly was the result for two power couples at the top of the Meridian leaderboard for the men and women.

Jamie Greene was dominant all weekend long on the women’s side, winning three events and never finishing below second place in any event.

She’ll be joined in Madison by her fiancé, Elliot Simmonds, who was also her teammate on CrossFit Yas’ third-place Affiliate Cup team in 2016.

Simmonds won a pair of events too and will get to make his rookie debut as an individual after finishing in second overall for the men.

Rasmus Andersen bounced back from a missed qualification in 2017 with four straight top-five event finishes to close out Regionals this year. He earned the title of Meridian Regional champion.

As was the case in 2016, Andersen’s girlfriend, Lauren Fisher, also will be joining him as an individual qualifier from the same Regional after taking second place behind Jamie Greene.

Fisher switched locations this year, moving from her home state of California to Dubai. Despite being far from home, Fisher managed to qualify for her fourth CrossFit Games as an individual at just 24 years old.
 

Power couples
Fisher

I think it’s really cool that both pairs will get the shared experience of the CrossFit Games as individuals in the same year.

If training with your significant other is beneficial, I imagine that competing together at the highest level in your sport must do wonders.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see.